Leading German economist Hans-Werner Sinn counts himself among those post-war Europeans who saw a more unified Europe--"the idea of a United States of Europe"--as an ideal step toward lasting stability. But, writing at Project Syndicate , Sinn shares concern that some centralized European institutions, like the European Central Bank, are taking steps that build greater rifts, rather than unity, among member states. Perhaps the idea of a United States of Europe, the dream of post-war children like me, can never be realized. But I am not so sure. After all, deeper European integration and the creation of a single political system offer solid, practical advantages that do not require a common identity or language. These advantages include the right to move freely across borders, the free movement of goods and services, legal certainty for cross-border economic activities, Europe-wide transportation infrastructure, and, not least, common security arrangements. Banking regulation is the most topical area in which collective action makes sense. If banks are regulated at the national level, but do business internationally, national regulatory authorities have a permanent incentive to set lax standards to avoid driving business to other countries and to lure it from them instead. Regulatory competition thus degenerates into a race to the bottom, since the benefits of lax regulation translate into profits at home, while the losses lie with bank creditors around the world. There are many similar examples from the fields of standards, competition policy, and taxation that are applicable here. So, fundamental considerations speak for deeper European integration, extending even to the creation of a single European state. Comments making bodies not only provide services that are useful to everybody, but also may abuse their power to redistribute resources among the participating countries. Even democratic bodies are not immune to this danger. On the contrary, they make it possible for majorities to exploit minorities. To counter this threat, democratic bodies invariably need special rules to protect minorities, such as the requirement of qualified majority voting or unanimous decision-making. Read Europe's Path to Disunity here .
Filed under: global business, EU, The Economist, Europe, euro, european central bank, risk, project syndicate, euro area, european banks, euro crisis, euro breakup, John Thanassoulis, Peter Collins, risk averse, Hans-Werner Sinn