History of the EU

by Chris Bertram on September 10, 2003

In today’s FT, Samuel Brittan reviews John Gillingham’s European Integration, 1950-2003 : Superstate or New Market Economy?. One interesting snippet, which I knew about but deserves wider publicity:

bq. Readers may be more surprised to find the name of Frederich Hayek given as the source of the alternative neoliberal interpretation. For most of today’s self-proclaimed Hayekians view everything to do with the EU with intense suspicion. Indeed I was sufficiently surprised myself to look up some of Hayek’s writings on the subject. Although he played no part in the post war institutional discussion, he had written at some length on the problems of federalism in the late 1930s. Hayek was among those who believed that some form of federalism, whether in Europe or on a wider basis, was an important step towards a more peaceful world. In a 1939 essay, remarkably anticipating the EU Single Market Act, he argued that a political union required some elements of a common economic policy, such as a common tariff, monetary and exchange rate policy, but also a ban on intervention to help particular producers.



Robert Schwartz 09.10.03 at 2:00 pm


Jacob T. Levy 09.10.03 at 5:03 pm

Glyn Morgan’s article on European integration in the spring issue of Critical Review also talked about this. Hayek, following Lord Acton, was committed to the view that etatism was partly a result of nationalism and of the identification of nation with state, meaning that it would be easier to preserve liberalism in a multinational polity than in a national one. (Nationalist- social democrats, such as David Miller, agree with the prognosis and take the opposite policy conclusion.)

I have a lot of sympathy with this line of reasoning. But it leads to a funny sort of day-to-day position: supporting European integration as long as it doesn’t work too well; preferring Brussels to national capitals as long as most Europeans don’t do the same. If people ever start feeling as much sentimental attachment to Europe as to their nations, the project will have succeeded too well and some of its crucial benefits will be lost.

These include, btw, the European zone of peace. Because people aren’t willing to kill and die for the EU, and they no longer have opportunity or motive to kill and die in intra-European wars– peace. If people *are* ever willing to kill and die for Europe, then Europe becomes just another giant military power. And that’s part of Hayek’s argument, too, more or less. (There’s a reason why he wrote the essay in 1939, after all.)


Doug 09.10.03 at 5:30 pm

At first glance, it’s not surprising that someone who grew up in the last days of the Habsburg Empire should have views on federalism. After all, its body politic had been at least quasi-federal for several decades, since Ferenc Deak had helped negotiate the great compromise for the Hungarians in 1867 (or so, memory fades).

And at second glance, maybe it’s not so surprising that Hayek plumped for federalism that didn’t work very well but tried to do right by everyone. That seems a succinct description of what Austria-Hungary tried to be in its dotage. So was Hayek simply nostalgic for the world of his youth?


“Herr von Habsburg, are you going to watch the football match on television tonight?”
“Who’s playing?”
“It’s Austria-Hungary”
“Yes, but against whom?”


Jacob T. Levy 09.10.03 at 7:12 pm

No doubt– though I think “simply” is unfair. There have been worse things to be nostalgic for than the late Hapsburg Empire, especially when one is an Austrian writing after the Anschluss. And for Acton, too, the Hapsburg experience was important; he saw that if the principle of nationality was allowed full play in eastern and central Europe, the results would not be pretty. His view, at least, wasn’t one of personal attachment– he was English. And Hayek– unlike, oddly, Isaiah Berlin– said for decades thet he felt more genuinely British than anything else. He certainly seems to have understood that the Vienna of his youth was irretrievably lost.


pathos 09.11.03 at 3:35 am

Yes, I read the Critical Review piece recently. It was very interesting, but only because it laid out the heart of the problem the EU faces. We begin with the assumption that we want more integration, and then we have to come up with reasons to explain why.

Using Hayek to support EU integration is a little like using Tom Paine to support re-electing Bush. “Vote for me, and you’ll never have to pay taxes to the British without adequate representation in Parliament.” Yeah, well we weren’t doing that anyway.

France and Germany seem to be forever off of the brink. Free trade is there within the borders, and the fact of greater integration doesn’t seem destined to, by itself, kill the agricultural policy. (French farmers want it then, European farmers want it now.)

I agree with Jacob, as well, that the advantages Hayek assumes only work if the EU doesn’t become as integrated as the USA, where no one thinks twice about jobs “disappearing” from the Midwest to Atlanta, or New York taxes going to ethanol subsidies in Iowa. Once “they” become “us”, it doesn’t matter if We are a Country or a Continent.


Doug 09.11.03 at 5:12 am

(No one cares about jobs moving from the Midwest to the Sunbelt, except of course the state governors, mayors, city and county councils, state business development departments, state legislatures – and that’s just the people in government. When UPS moved its headquarters to Atlanta, not least because its employees could afford twice the house that they could in Connecticut, it was a big deal indeed. The latest duel between South Carolina and Georgia for a Mercedes production plant was page one above-the-fold news in both states. There is relentless and ruthless competition for businesses and jobs, and the debate over whether tax holidays and other subsidies actually do any good is a hot one too.)

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