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Political Market For Midget Europe
In The Giant Asia

By Gaither Stewart

15 December, 2007

(Rome) The Italian political economist, Michele Salvati, notes in an article in the Milan daily, Corriere della Sera, that globalization has eroded the capacity of the role of the small traditional European ethnic state to furnish a model for the future. For Europe the emergence of China and India as world economic giants change the political backdrop of the world order. Huge countries inhabited by races and cultures different from ours point toward an accelerated shrinking of the planetary roles of Europe and the United States.

The shift eastwards of the balance of power raises another question: what kind of political organization will the Asia-oriented globalized world have? It is not excluded that the European political model with its theories of the equality of all men will carry no weight in the socio-political make-up of the world of the future.

For two hundred years Europe has experimented with a political system based on the interplay between the Left and the Right. Basically Left has meant the collective; Right, the individual. The result of this dichotomy is the heart of the European Idea. Today globalization is challenging that coherent system because a globally organized world creates new tensions and new difficulties for the survival of the old ethnic nations.

Still, the Left-Right principle survives. In the past the major countries of the Old World have overcome other phases of internationalization without discarding the open political debate between Left and Right. Markets and international finance, colonialism and imperialism, major migrations and conflicts with other cultures are after all familiar subjects for Europe.

Today’s situation is however different precisely because of the aggressive and unbound form of globalization economics and the entrance on the world scene of dynamic and overly dimensioned non-European economic powers.

In West Europe’s parliamentary systems the divergence and interaction between progressive and conservative have been consolidated since the revolutions of the 18th century. The conflict between the two political ideas was born together with concepts of individualism and liberalism and the fundamental idea that all men are equal. The Left has stood for redistribution of wealth to the collective, the Right for concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.

For two centuries the Left has pressed for political rights, equality of social and economic opportunities for all and a strong role for the state. The Right, in the name of tradition, entrepreneurial freedoms and the accumulation of capital, has resisted state controls and intervention.

Now again in Europe suffering under the onslaught of globalization—exportation of jobs, energy shortages and an over-valued currency—the individual again stands in the forefront. In the past both Left and Right have stumbled over the problem of the individual, the Left in the name of the collective, the Right in the name of capital accumulation. For the old Left, the collective has commanded. For the Right, freedom means freedom for a few to exploit the collective.

The European Left has both promoted and feared the European Union, positive to the degree that it is a union of ethnic and cultural communities and peoples, negative if it is merely a union of multi-nationals to better exploit labor on a universal scale.

Last century over-emphasis on the nation, whether of Left or Right, degenerated into patriotism and nationalism, overshadowing the real interests of the individual in West Europe. In the name of nation or race (Fascism and Nazism), the compact society of patriots led to two world wars and the greatest massacres modern man has known.

Society’s problem is how to resolve the quandary of balancing individual freedom and the role of the just state. The USA has not resolved the issue. It has only buried it alive.

Europe, of Left and Right, is more resistant. Reformism is still alive. The Right of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Nicolas Sarkozy in France and Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany have had to find some balance between the two poles. Therefore few social advances achieved in the past have been completely eliminated in contemporary continental Europe as some political leaders have proposed.

Values deriving from the Illuminist tradition have prevailed. However, as shown by periods of failure such as European imperialism-colonialism and Fascism-Nazism it has not been an easy road. Nevertheless the basic political debate between Left and Right has always returned as the axis around which European society revolves. This is the evolution of fundamental democracy handed down from ancient Greece.

Though post-Enlightenment Europe has faced weakly the question of international political order for these two centuries, curious political thinkers such as Salvati and futurologists speculate about this aspect of the future world—how will humans organize that world in order to offer social justice and equal rights for all?

There is no guarantee that the Left-Right dichotomy will survive in the future world since we have no basis for predicting whether the mysterious New World Order will even remotely resemble the ideal of democracy. It seems unlikely that the USA in decline, with its bizarre idea of exportation of democracy, can control the future world. Perhaps, on the other hand, the new world society will resemble something out of a scary futuristic film.

In any case the orientation of thought about the New World Order throws into crisis concepts of sovereign national states and together with them the Left-Right dichotomy, the beating heart of the European idea.

Is Europe’s Big Chance Around the Corner?

Michele Salvati concludes that it is strange that in our rapidly changing world thinkers concerned with the effect of globalization on politics do not also discuss the influence of politics on globalization and the future international political order.

The political sphere will have an enormous influence on the direction the planet will take in immediate future. In the vacuum left by an increasingly ugly United States, Europe has the opportunity of resuming its place as a fount of ideas and guarantor of social justice. Beyond the transmission of its political model to the new economic giants of Asia, Europe’s ideas on matters such as race and religious relations, the welfare state, world-wide elimination of capital punishment, universal health care and defense of the environment in Asia as a whole—which by the year 2010 will consume more energy than the USA—can be invaluable.

It is here in this democratic, Left-Right concept of society, that Salvati bases his hopes that the United Europe of the future, even with its half billion population still a midget in relation to the emerging global economy, will make its greatest gift to the world.

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