Friday, October 28, 2011

United States of Europe?


Planet Money has a story about how Germans feel obliged to bail-out Greece because of guilt over World War II. For me, the story is simpler than that, it is because at least some class of Europeans now identify as European before they identify as German or French or Spanish. You can see it in the film Auberge Espagnole (nominally about a bunch of pan-European kids living in a hostel together in Barcelona, but actually about the dream of European unity as seen by the seemless integration of these young people), you can see it in the graduate schools and research centers, where at least in economics, the lingua franca in the most prestigious european research universities is English, and seminars and research groups are organized along research lines rather than national lines. Finally you see it in a few surprising conversations I've had with Europeans recently from various countries that sounded something like:

European: It's impressive how in the US, New Yorkers are happy to spend money helping flood victims in South Carolina.
Me: Really? You think Parisians wouldn't want to help flood victims in Marseille?
European: Well sure, but people in Berlin would not.
Me: ???

It was surprising how for these Europeans (perhaps the academic-y types), the analogy between New York and South Carolina was Berlin and Marseille.
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