As Benjamin Franklin remarked, ‘Experience keeps a dear school, yet fools learn in no other.’ He was brilliant enough to invent the lightning conductor but could not predict the formation of the European Union, where no one learns by experience.When consulted directly, Europe’s peoples reject free trade, yet the European parliament has just approved a new free trade agreement, with Canada. Its principal measures will be applied right away, whether or not it is ratified by national parliaments. Even hardened fools should have been enlightened by the case of Greece: since May 2010 it has been bled almost dry by the drastic remedies prescribed by the Eurogroup, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, and is close to yet another default. Dirty syringes are being used to inject its bruised flesh, while the German right decides whether to throw Greece out of the eurozone hospital. And there is more. Welfare budgets are under pressure in several EU member states, which are trying to outdo each other in finding imaginative ways to pay the unemployed less and stop giving medical treatment to foreigners. Yet everyone seems to agree that defence spending should be increased in response to the ‘Russian threat’, though Russia’s defence budget is less than a tenth of the US’s.
Why Europe fails to learn