In honor of Meryl Streep’s performance in the soon-to-be-released The Iron Lady, about which I’ve read Streep (typically) absolutely nails her character while the movie (typically) slights right-of-center policy success. Here is the Iron Lady – prophetic in 1996! – on the subject of European integration. (Courtesy of Michael Gerson writing at the WaPo).
But Europe’s division runs deeper than the details of tax policy. The European Union not only encompasses 27 nations but also two distinct economic and social models: Anglo-Saxon liberalism and the Franco-German version of highly regulated capitalism. Britain and a few other nations (such as Denmark, Poland and Hungary) have often defended the former within the councils of Europe — an important, uphill task.
Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, however, predicted an irrepressible conflict. European federalism, she argued, was inseparable from statism and protectionism. Rather than containing German influence, the European project eventually would be a bureaucratic leviathan dominated by Germany. And Thatcher thought the outcome of such integration would be unstable. She wrote that it would leave German taxpayers to provide “ever greater subsidies for failing regions of foreign countries,” while condemning “the south European countries to debilitating dependency on handouts from German taxpayers.” Smaller nations would eventually resent “economic disruption, rule by remote bureaucracies and the loss of independence.”
For fans of Lady Thatcher, here’s a great compilation from her last (?) question time as PM. @2:36 for a great exchange on the subject of “Europe.”