Europe is currently absorbed with the task of finding a unifying force among its diversity of culture and values. How can Europe become e pluribus unum– one out of many? Many European issues, from Brexit to the financial bankruptcy of Greece, should be understood through the framework of balancing national and international interests. Furthermore, among the flurry of adjustments to policy and government, how can the European Union assure that individual rights will be valued? Frederick Bastiat stated in The Law that the concept of individual liberty “precede(s) human legislation.” The robust tradition of freedom continued in American founding documents, such as The Declaration of Independence, could serve as a tool Europe employs to work through these questions. In a recent Forbes article, Alejandro Chafuen considered the present value of a proper conception of freedom to the European Union.
“At most programs I attend in Western Europe there is a lack of diversity. There is adequate country representation but scant ideological differences among speakers. Conspicuously absent are views from most free-market think tanks of the United Kingdom or the United States. An important exception to this takes place at the Estoril Political Forum, which is currently the largest political studies meeting in Portugal.
This year the EPF’s theme was “Patriotism, Cosmopolitanism, and Democracy.” In his opening speech, Dr. Espada used the U.S. Declaration of Independence to describe the interplay of universal versus national principles: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I highlight all men to stress the universality of the claim. But as other key speakers in the program, such as Bill Galston from the Brookings Institute, and Marc Plattner of the Journal of Democracy correctly pointed out, these universal principles were presented as a foundation for a particular act of national separation of the United States of America from England.
The first sentence of the Declaration mentions the existence of “one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth,” and further recognizes that this “separate and equal station” was based on “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Paradoxically, Patriots are more prone than Cosmopolitans to use the laws of nature and God as foundations for their policy positions.”
Chafuen ultimately urged for a a synthesis of national patriotism and unity supported by natural law:
“There needs to be a place in Europe for patriots and for those who, while preserving the goal of a more united and cosmopolitan Europe, cherish their national cultures and traditions. Achieving balance between these two principles would go a long way toward building longer lasting institutional frameworks conducive to free and prosperous societies.”