The cult of the euro believes that the currency is a step on the road to a unified continent like a United States of Europe. Let me tell you a story about my experience in Amsterdam, and then we’ll contrast the conditions that led to the creation of the U.S.A with the current conditions in Europe.
I was doing a home exchange with a nice American ex-pat woman who lived by the Noorderkerk. I have visited the city several times, and on this particular day I had no plan. I was just walking around with Missy the dog taking pictures. It was a beautiful, summer day with temperatures in the 70’s with a light breeze and those big, fluffy white clouds that make every picture you take postcard pretty.
It was lunchtime, and there is this outdoor cafe on the Prinsengracht that I love. I found a table on the canal next to a German couple, tied Missy to my chair and began to peruse the menu. The Germans were trying to flag down the waiter for something, but he was ignoring them.
I wasn’t happy about this, because I was really hungry and the waiter looked very busy. I girded myself for a long wait, but then the waiter walked right past the German table, approached me and smiled.
“You are American,” he said in nearly perfect American English.
“I’m a hungry American,” I joked.
He laughed and my little joke and replied, “Well, we better get you something to refresh yourself.” I ordered pancakes and bottle of Pellegrino. By the way, if you’re ever in Amsterdam, the pancakes are very hearty and make a very good lunch. I like apples and bacon with mine.
When he left the table, he turned around and completely ignored the German couple trying to get his attention. That’s when my lunch turned into a Monty Python sketch. The waiter was as charming and hospitable as a waiter could be to me and Missy, even bringing her a water bowl without me even asking. He either ignored the German couple or acted with utter contempt and complete surliness towards them if he chose to visit the table.
Upon serving my food, he explained the nuances of the Dutch pancake and told me that the American variety surely descended from the Dutch version served in New Amsterdam and the surrounding Dutch colonies. Then, he turned around, slammed the German couple’s food on the table and walked away without saying a word.
I used to be a waiter, so I had just had to find out what was going on. I asked, “Dude, you seem mad at those Germans. Did they do something to you guys before I got here?”
He replied, “They stole our bicycles.”
This answer was so odd that I knew I was talking to a crazy person. I just nodded my head like I understood and decided to press the issue no further.
Later on, I told the story to my hostess. She smiled and explained, “During World War II, the SS confiscated all the bicycles in Amsterdam. To this day, it is their favorite insult to say to Germans.”
My waiter was in his 20’s, so World War II was a distant idea to him, but all the Dutch still hate Germans.
This is why you’ll never see a U.S.E. Everyone resents the Germans, but then there are all of these other resentments, as well. All former countries of the Hapsburg Empire regard each other with a mixture of mistrust and contempt, and we could go on all day listing the various European rivalries and resentments.
The U.S.A only became the U.S.A when the Constitution was ratified and the federal government assumed the responsibility for each former colony’s war debt. This was not a hard sell. While there were prejudices and a degree of mistrust among the original 13, we had just fought our war of independence together. New York’s war debt kept Virginia free and vice-versa.
Europe is in the opposite situation. They have all fought each other at one time or another. Rather than a war bringing the continent together to fight a common enemy, each major power has taken a turn at trying to subjugate the entire continent breeding resentments that fester to this day.
What helped the U.S.A become the U.S.A was English. We all spoke it and speak it. This means that we can issue one set of laws for everyone from Hawaii to Maine. This does not exist in Europe. One set of laws is created and translated into different national languages where they become different laws due to linguistic nuances.
Ultimately, a common currency will never be able to make up for the lack of a common language and a common enemy coupled with resentments enduring for hundreds of years, but that isn’t going to stop the cult of the euro from trying.