The Europeanization of America: What Every American Should Know about the European Union

The George Washington Journal of International Law and Economics, January 1, 1996 | Go to article overview

The Europeanization of America: What Every American Should Know about the European Union


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. …

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