There is an interesting interview of Niall Ferguson on BigThink.com where he lists six items that are important for why Europe went ahead during the last 500 years.
The competition between all various kingdoms and the geography that created this is the first cause. Then he lists the scientific revolution and modern medicine as the two next ones. He does not believe democracy was the key but rather the Rule of Law that led to representation by property owners that came to pass around the glorious revolution of 1688 and the ideas of John Locke. He says consumer society that drives the economy and the work ethic. He does not think the Protestant work ethic is superior to the work ethic of the Chinese.
This list leaves the question about what is the hen and what is the egg unanswered. The development of an economy or the scientific revolution. He does not list religion or freedom as important. The Chinese that were advanced in the 16th century did not have a God concept nor any Biblical ideas of subduing the globe or to do the impossible. They did not discover the Western Hemisphere.
However, the EU is right now facing a crisis where it seems like the main issue is how to solve internal imbalances in the EU economy. Lately I have seen the federalists gain a little of an upper hand or rather people that want to mysteriously run the EU without any government--more discipline. There has also surfaced arguments of creating a northern Eurozone which would entail quite a change.
But if Ferguson is right about competition among the EU states being the key for modernity with nationalities and different languages would not the EU as it is progress faster and more elaborate than would the federalized US? At least if the brain drain to the states could be alleviated. The US does retain its greater allure to foreign students from other parts of the world due to the English language of course which will give them an edge. Ralph Waldo Emerson's comment in The American Scholar from 1837, called the American literary declaration of independence, "gather from far various genius to our hospitable halls" might still be stage two in the rocket of the Western civilization.
Ferguson, on an ominous note, also compares the global situation we now face as analogous with that of Europe hundred years ago. China being equivalent with Germany and the US with Great Britain. What might speak for such a situation could be the more authoritative nature of our situation today which would bring us back in time--management wise. It is, however, along the line of what Gideon Rachman wrote in his book Zero-Sum World which could be summarized: there is trouble up ahead.
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