These two sorts of individualism are today at the root of two different sorts of Europeanism. True Europeanism admits that most of what made Europe was not planned but rather spontaneous. The implications are that we ought to have as much decentralization as possible for Europe to continue to strive and to safeguard human liberties. On the other hand, false Europeanism thinks that Europe can only truly become Europe if planning by common political institutions exists.
False Europeanists believe that the only alternative is between Nation States and the European Union. Their defense of a centralized European political entity is based on the erroneous idea that political centralization is positively linked to the process of civilization because society, law, markets, prosperity, and the “European spirit” ought to be designed by rulers.
Europe during the Middle Ages, those thinkers say, lacked trade integration because it lacked political unification. It follows that we must be grateful today for the existence of the European Union. In their narrative, economic progress took place only when “Europe” slowly began to develop new trading alliances that combined some aspects of military protection with something akin to a free-trade area. But this version of history is very far from the truth.
In the Middle Ages for instance, the lex mercatoria, the law of merchants, was purely private. Furthermore, the protective tariffs were mostly ignored anyway by Europeans. Smuggling was so widespread that England in the late Middle Ages should be in fact considered as a nation of smugglers rather than a nation of merchants. As Murray Rothbard noted in Conceived in Liberty:
“Too many historians have fallen under the spell of the interpretation of the late nineteenth-century German economic historians (for example, Schmoller, Bucher, Ehrenberg): that the development of a strong centralized nation-state was requisite to the development of capitalism in the early modern period.
Not only is this thesis refuted by the flourishing of commercial capitalism in the Middle Ages in the local and non-centralized cities of northern Italy, the Hanseatic League, and the fairs of Champagne…
It is also refuted by the outstanding growth of the capitalist economy in free, localized Antwerp and Holland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Thus the Dutch came to outstrip the rest of Europe while retaining medieval local autonomy and eschewing state-building, mercantilism, government participation in enterprise — and aggressive war.”
Thus, the idea that a centralized authority, in our case the European Union, is necessary for free trade is pure fantasy, It is false Europeanism. Its constructivist approach has prevailed in European institutions since the beginning.
For example, one of the goals advanced by the Treaty of Rome was to “create markets” through a unified European Anti-trust legislation. Similarly, the official justification of the Common Agricultural Policy introduced in 1962 was to create a unified agricultural market. But markets do not need States or treaties to exist and they certainly do not need the European Union.
The parallel between false Europeanism and false individualism is also relevant when it comes to their respective imperialistic tendencies. Whereas the French revolutionaries wanted to invade Europe to impose their “universal values” through force, the European Union does not tolerate, in the name of Europe, independent States that do not want to submit to Brussels.