The Europeanization of America: What Every American Should Know About the European Union, by Thomas C. Fisher. Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press, 1995. Pp. 342. $49.95 (hardcover).
Since World War II, the United States has marked its history not in years but in eras. The fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties, had distinct cultural, political, economic, and social identities. At the points where one era became another, the nation switched gears, simultaneously upshifting and downshifting, and moved forward at a different pace.
The twenty-first century rapidly approaches-yet another bookend/milestone in U.S. history, but this time a centennial in gravity and magnitude. Accepting that this mindset is as pervasive as it is illusory, what will the future hold? This unanswerable question seems to gather particular strength at the beginning of the end of every era. But no turning point in recent memory has engendered as much anxiety and anticipation as the coming turn of the century. After all, the next future will be a thousand years long, not just ten. Inevitably, as the U.S. polity grapples with the approaching millennium, the question seems to be: How will the United States make its future happen?
Professor Thomas C. Fisher sees a crucial flaw in this question. In his recent book, The Europeanization of America: What Every American Should Know About the European Union, Fisher argues that the question of the future requires more than national soul searching. As a nation suffering from "excess and exhaustion," he believes that the United States should look for its future not just within its own borders, but also across the Atlantic to the European Union (EU). He concludes his first chapter with a proposal, perhaps modest given the nearly religious U.S. belief in self-reliance and sufficiency, that "[f]or all that Europe has paid attention to America in the past, it is time we began paying more attention to Europe."
On its face, Fisher's choice of Europe as a barometer for the future of the United States seems strange. After all, the Pacific Rim has already laid the first claim to the twenty-first century. A focus on Europe, therefore, seems misguided.
Fisher dispels this notion in chapters two, three, and four. He first presents a host of data that reveals the depth and breadth of U.S.-European interconnection. To begin, Fisher notes that Europe is already one of the best markets for U.S. goods, with exports to the EU exceeding $100 billion annually. Trade with Europe produced a $16 billion surplus for the United States in 1991, a much different situation than the $100 billion trade deficit the United States currently faces in the Far East. For their part, Fisher notes, European businesses have invested $250 billion in the United States, creating 2.9 million jobs and accounting for seven percent of U.S. manufacturing employment.
As Fisher shows in chapter three, the United States and Europe share more than just economic ties. He notes that the modern concept of a unified Europe began with the U.S. Marshall Plan, which encouraged European nations to "act collectively to rebuild their nations and economies." From this beginning, Fisher traces the turbulent development of a unified Europe from the 1950s to the late 1980s. Although acknowledging the EU's many missteps and difficulties, he notes that the United States has suffered, and continues to suffer, its own share of crises inspired by the problems of confederation. Fisher concludes that despite its shortcomings, this federalism offers the best hope for prosperity in a simultaneously interconnecting and shrinking world. He continues this theme in chapter four, where he explores the natures of U.S. and EU federalism by comparing the approaches of each to two major policy issues: agriculture and the federal taxation power.
Fisher provides some of his most useful information in the next three chapters, where he outlines the structure and procedures of EU government, and briefly reviews the substantive economic law of the EC. In chapter five, he describes the functions of each branch of the EC. These include the primarily legislative workings of the European Parliament and Council, the largely administrative activity of the European Commission, and the judicial functions of the European Court of Justice and the Courts of First Instance. Chapter five also includes brief descriptions of associated entities like the Court of Auditors, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, and the European Investment Bank. In chapter six, Fisher describes the myriad ways in which these various organizations interact to produce and implement law and policy. Both chapters trace the roots of EC government and power back to international treaties in much the same way that the structure and powers of the U.S. government derive from its constitution.
In chapter seven, Fisher takes on the daunting task of reducing a vast body of EU substantive law to a handful of easy to understand principles. He describes EC statutes dealing with the movement of goods, workers, services and capital across national borders, and explains how the EC crafts these laws to support its overall federalist goals. For example, Fisher notes that the EC has passed laws requiring the mutual recognition of "diplomas, certificates and other evidence of formal qualifications" by each Member State, thereby liberalizing the free flow of professional labor from nation to nation. Each subject matter presents challenges similar to those faced by the United States, but often magnified by the wider variety of national interests at stake. Laws concerning the free movement of capital create particular hazards, because of each nation's sovereign prerogatives regarding its own currency.
Chapters eight through fifteen comprise the meat of The Europeanization of America. In each, Fisher examines a particular obstacle to European confederation, the EC's response to date, and the effects of these impediments on the nature and structure of European federalism. Certain problems have become EC success stories, like the creation of the European Common Market in 1992, or potential success stories, like the plan for economic and monetary union under the Maastricht treaty scheduled for 1999. Others, including the economic and social disparities among Member States, and the future challenges of expanding EU membership to the countries of the former Communist bloc, have more fundamental roots and will defy resolution for the foreseeable future, perhaps indefinitely.
To close the book, Fisher returns to his earlier theme of the beneficial nature of Euro-American interdependence. In chapter seventeen, he examines the results of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Not surprisingly, he concludes that the liberalization of world trade fostered by GATT will have tremendous positive effects for both the United States and the EU. Lowering trade barriers, in Fisher's words, creates the "best guarantor of world peace and security" for industrialized nations. Consistent with this support for global integration, in chapter eighteen Fisher downplays the importance of regional economic unions like the North American Free Trade Agreement or the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. He views these local treaties as nothing more than steps in the evolution of a truly global free trade system.
What are the answers to questions about the future of the United States in the coming century? Perhaps wisely, Fisher avoids concrete conclusions, citing the existence of too many variables to make any clear, valid determinations. To that end, his work describes rather than predicts. In this picture of the structure and workings of the European Community, Fisher gives his U.S. readers not an answer to the question of the future, but a point of reference from which they may draw their own conclusions.
Thomas C. Fisher is dean emeritus and professor of law at the New England School of Law, Boston.