Written by Frank Li
After publishing three articles on China (America: What is China, Anyway?), America (What is America, Anyway?), and Japan (America: What is Japan, Anyway?), respectively, it's time for me to explain to my fellow Americans what EU (European Union) is, for the sake of having a complete worldview of the developed regions or countries.
1. EU and me
I lived in Brussels, Belgium, from August 1988 to January 1991. Brussels is the best city to live in Europe for two main reasons:
- It's an important city, as it's the capital of EU.
- It's not crowded with many tourists yet, unlike Paris or London.
While in Brussels, I worked for a company named "SWIFT" (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications). SWIFT runs the largest global financial transaction network. For example, if you transfer money from Chase (a U.S. bank) to Barclays (a U.K. bank), your transaction typically carries a SWIFT code, meaning the transaction goes through the SWIFT network.
I worked in the R&D department at SWIFT, specializing in software, computers, and telecommunications. The best part of that job was that I was involved in an ESPRIT project called EQUATOR.
ESPRIT stood for "European Strategic Program for R&D on Information Technology". Theoretically, it was EC's (European Communities, the predecessor of EU) response to America's SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative). Practically, it was a set of large R&D projects, enabling many people travelling among the EC countries for improved communication and understanding, as a part of the preparation for the migration from EC to EU.
EQUATOR (Event-driven Qualitative Temporal Reasoning) was a multi-year and multi-million dollar project, involving a dozen partners from several EC countries, including the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and so on. This gave me a unique opportunity to travel around Europe for both work and pleasure, and I did, extensively!
Oh, what was the most memorable event in Europe while I was there? The fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 (see photo below), unquestionably!
In short, I know EU, perhaps as well as an Asian-American possibly can.
2. Europe's history: an overview
Unlike Japan and China which remain mysterious to many Americans, most Americans are of European descent, often knowing Europe's history better than I do. So I will simply summarize Europe's history in four points as follows:
- Europe is like China, with a long, rich, and proud history.
- It was capitalism (e.g. the Industrial Revolution) that propelled Europe decisively ahead of China in the 1800s.
- It was WWII that propelled America ahead of Europe.
- It is socialism that has stalled [West] Europe for the past several decades, and counting.
Additionally, let me highlight two issues of European origin: democracy and communism.
Democracy was practiced in Greece and Rome more than 2,000 years ago. Both failed miserably for the same reason: debts. Here are two famous quotes:
Do you now realize that we are repeating the mistake from more than 2,000 years ago?
How are democracy and communism related? Here is a quote from Karl Marx, the father of communism:
Furthermore, I argue that democracy is really the same thing as communism in essence ("Saving America, Chinese Style"). Although this argument is still debatable, what's known for sure is that both of them are proven failures in human history!
3. EU today
Bluntly speaking, EU is rumored to be the result of a conspiracy by the French and Germans to rule Europe! I think there are valid reasons behind this rumor.
Life is simple, if you understand these three points:
- You must work to live, unless you live in communism, which achieves absolute equality by pulling everybody down to being dirt poor - Been there, done that!
- You must trade to live better. We used to trade a pig for a bag of rice until someone invented money.
- As a country, you must have sovereignty for your currency, so that you can print money when necessary, with or without consequences. If your currency is a reserve currency (e.g. the US$ and Euro), so much the better!
With EU, it's a happy family for all the member countries, right? Unfortunately, if you (e.g. Greece) are not remotely as productive as one of your big brothers (e.g. Germany), you are screwed (or at least belittled). If you can't even print your own money because your currency no longer exists, you are really screwed.
Here is a positive note for Greece: Many Germans have to work until they are 70, so as to support many Greeks who retired, or will retire, at 50! So stop calling yourselves "slaves"!
Three big EU points:
- Sorry for the French. There can be only one king in EU, who turns out to be the Germans.
- Good for the British. They were smart enough to keep their currency (i.e. British Pound) out of the Euro! More profoundly, rather than competing with the Germans and French on the crowded European continent, the British expanded via military occupation as well as Commonwealth - No other nation on earth has expanded so substantially, and mostly successfully until recently at least
- Good for the Germans. They have achieved economically what they failed to achieve militarily via two wars (i.e. WWI and WWII): dominating Europe.
In short, the Germans are a great people. They are hard-working and they are intelligent. Today, they lead EU, and deservedly so.
What EU has done is unprecedented in human history: peacefully grouping many diverse countries together to form a union. It would be a miracle if it truly works out in a long-run ...
Currently, EU faces two huge challenges, like America and Japan:
- Democracy: Democracy is a proven failure in human history, and it's the key reason behind EU's disastrous situation today: several countries are already in bankruptcy, thanks to socialism, with more to follow. For more on EU's short-term outlook, read: EU Experts Sluggish Growth, High Unemployment to Persist.
- The competition from the BRICS, especially China. Yes, China is already EU's biggest creditor.
Now, let's do some comparisons ...
4.1 EU and the U.S.
EU is similar to the U.S. in both population and GDP. However, unlike the U.S. with one nation and one people, EU is multiple nations and multiple people. Therefore, it is hard to see how EU can possibly work better than the U.S., unless the U.S. self-destructs badly. Nevertheless, it's important for the U.S. to learn from EU: successes as well as mistakes.
What are the successes over there? Two examples:
- In Belgium, voting is mandatory - All eligible voters must vote. This is in a stark contrast with the U.S., where less than 50% of the eligible voters participate in a general election.
- Restoring some financial and fiscal disciplines before the situation becomes much worse.
What is the biggest mistake over there? Socialism!
What is socialism? Back to Karl Marx and the following image offers a good summary:
My fellow Americans, if you still do not know what socialism is and how bad it can be, look at this image and think ...
4.2 EU and China
Unless the U.S. changes as I suggested ("Saving America, Chinese Style"), it will lose in its head-on competition with China. If I'm correct, how could EU possibly compete against China? Simply, it can't!
Worse yet for both the U.S. and EU, China may roll over both of you - You have been forewarned!
4.3 Germany and Japan
Like the Germans, the Japanese are also a great people of hard-working and intelligence.
Japan and Germany developed relations in the late 1800s (Japan-German relations). They conspired together for WWII (as the photo shown below), but both failed miserably.
After WWII, Japan recovered faster and better than Germany, but has been stuck in the two lost decades (and counting). For more, read: America: What is Japan, Anyway?
With East Germany and West Germany becoming one and with EU, Germany will do much better than Japan from now on for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Germany is the #1 in its region, while Japan must settle as #2 (to China) in its region ...
5. Stop blaming China!
The image below tells you a lot about what China went through in the 1800s: China lost all the wars, and the major western powers simply divided China into pieces.
The image below shows how China has been regaining its footing via trade.
For those Americans who are tired of seeing too many "Made in China" products in the U.S., go to EU - It's even worse over there!
Both the Europeans and Americans must under these three points:
- The Chinese have the right to pursue prosperity.
- The Chinese are succeeding in a western style: capitalism!
- Stop going deeper and deeper into socialism! Or the Chinese will roll over you, economically - You have been forewarned, again!
Bottom line: capitalism trumps socialism!
I enjoyed my time living in Brussels! Because I paid a lot of taxes, close to 50% of my income, I shall go back to claim my pension in a few years. But will it still be there?
Democracy killed Greece and Rome more than 2,000 years ago. It may again kill them, together with some of their neighbors, in this 21st century ...
I am worried about my pension ...